10.16.2006

The History of Lampworking and Glassblowing

When did Glassworking begin?
While the age of lampworking is unknown, it was developed well before the invention of any torch, burner, or furnace. Glassworking was rumored to have been discovered by someone accidentally dropping glass into a campfire. From there they used a "small fire" for any form of glasswork and developed small beehive shaped furnaces in the ground. These small furnaces have been recorded in many ancient civilizations and they seem to have dominated glassmaking before the birth of Christ. These glasswork techniques spread throughout the ancient world from Japan to North Africa.

The Romans were known to have used these beehive furnaces or kilns, and are responsible for making some significant changes to their design. They were the first to add more exhaust vents and more options for side access to these kilns. More tools were experimented with and refined.

Just before the birth of Christ, someone thought of using a hollow pipe to extract glass instead of glass rods. It caused a bubble of gathered glass. While glass beads were still used the old way with rods, glass blowing dominated the glass forming technique for the next thousand years. Italians achieved the highest technical achievement around the world. In 1921, the Italians were sent to Murano (An island off the mainland of Venice, Italy), due to the fire hazards of Glasswork.

As Europe entered the Renaissance, a new use for glass was developed. Angelo Barovier, working in Murano, invented Crystallo, a clear soda glass in 1450 AD. There was a new need for clear durable vessels as chemical science was developing. This was the best glass for the job. The pipe glassblowing technique wasn't suitable for making these small objects. It was discovered that forcing a small narrow stream of air into a flame from an oil lamp created sufficient heat to work with the small pieces of glass. By the beginning of the fifteenth century this technique was spread throughout Europe and Lampworking was born.

Although the tools continued to become more sophisticated, the basic material, glass, has remained essentially the same as when Crystallo invented it. This glass is commonly referred to today at Moretti Glass, or Effetre.

In 1921, a scientist from the glass factory in Corning, New York, invented a new glass more resilient when heated and cooled, called Pyrex. It was 15 percent lighter and much stronger than soda glass. However, it required a much higher and more powerful heat source to work with the glass.

It was found that adding oxygen and natural gas produced the heat and power needed for pyrex and the traditional oil lamps were replaced with new oxygen and natural gas burners which clamped to the lampworkers workbench.

Today, equipment and tools have continued to become more sophisticated and new tools are experimented, however, many of the original tools from Murano are widely used and are still the most effective.

All the glass beads at Kincaidesigns are handcrafted by the artist, Holly Kincaid, using the lampwork techniques described in this article. She then uses her handcrafted glass beads in her unique handmade jewelry designs. To shop for your own handmade glass beaded jewelry, go to the Glass Art and Handmade Jewelry Shop.

Visit www.kincaidesigns.com to shop for Unique Handmade Jewelry.

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